By UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía and National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial
Having campaigned on a platform based on fear and hatred of undocumented immigrants of color, this administration wasted no time shifting its focus to curbing legal immigration. A proposal to radically change the existing “public charge” policy would punish law-abiding, legal immigrants and restrict family-based immigration, one of the cornerstones of our nation’s immigration system.
Public charge is a decades-old term and policy that forms part of the green card application process and examines an applicant’s means to support themselves over the long term. Yet, Trump’s proposed rule takes the policy well beyond its original purpose in an effort to block the door to the legal immigration system for America’s working families.
The administration’s proposed change would rework the policy unnecessarily, broadening the criteria by which an individual is deemed a “public charge” to include participation in critical programs for which they are both eligible and pay for in taxes, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid. Further, it would tack on new family income barriers that would disproportionately impact green card applicants from working-class backgrounds. What’s tragic is that this proposal will hurt all Americans in the long run, by depriving families of support they need to weather hard times so that they will be to continue contributing in the future.
The administration’s initial efforts to undermine legal immigration were so outrageous that they went nowhere, even in a Congress controlled by the Administration’s party. Having failed legislatively, the administration has attempted a long list of agency regulations, including banning screened asylum seekers, attacking diversity visas, bottlenecking the process for eligible immigrants to become citizens, and attempting to terminate the status of holders of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Central Americans, Haitians, and the Sudanese. Never mind that those with TPS and others represent some of the most vetted immigrants living in our communities or in line to come to our country. The common thread? They are overwhelmingly people of color.
The proposed rule change is another example of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, now taking aim not only at legal immigrants who played by the rules but also their U.S. citizen family members. As expected in the dog-whistle politics playbook, this new regulation is accompanied by copious misinformation, led by the false pretense that immigrants pose a burden to American taxpayers despite clear evidence against it.
The thin veneer of “it’s about legality” with which the Administration tried to cloak its immigration agenda has been duly exposed. The false pretense of public charge is yet another point of proof that the problem isn’t documentation, but the color of one’s skin and the size of one’s wallet. The issue of immigration is one of a long list of issues that have been used as proxies to divide America and scapegoat America’s poor and working families, especially those from communities of color.
If the latest election was any indication, far too many politicians have made use of dog-whistle politics to foment anxiety, fear and hate. They’re trying to distract Americans into blaming each other rather than holding policymakers accountable for the impact of their policy decisions.
We are heartened that voters see these tactics for what they truly are. In the American Election Eve poll, released on November 6, 86% of voters in congressional battleground states agreed that politicians are pointing the finger at the poor, immigrants, and communities of color to distract us from policies that result in huge tax cuts only for the wealthiest of Americans, defund our schools, separate families, or threaten seniors with cuts to Medicare and Social Security, and that it was important to vote to stand up for Americans of all backgrounds and against attacks that divide us.
Given this administration’s track record so far, we don’t anticipate that it will ever see the light on scapegoating immigrants or communities of color, if left to its own devices. It may be the season of giving, but when it comes to working-class immigrants of color, Trump is only interested in taking away. Which is why, as civil rights organizations, we are working with our networks, sister organizations, and partners to raise our voices, and urge even more concerned Americans to weigh in during this proposed regulation comment period to ensure that our policies reflect our country’s values. We are uplifted by the thousands of comments pouring in from many organizations, asking the administration to desist from this damaging course. If it cares for the well-being of millions of American families, the administration should listen.
See how you can take action here.